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First Bite: Fatty Cue Manhattan

Screen Shot 2011-09-27 at 4.11.59 PM.pngWhile we’ve been spending lots of time in Williamsburg checking out all of the great new restaurants, one of our favorite Brooklyn eateries did an about-face, opening a second location in Manhattan. Zak Pelaccio caught everyone’s attention when he opened a Southeast Asian bbq joint called Fatty Cue.  And now you don’t have to leave the island of Manhattan to try his brisket with red chili jam, coriander bacon, and spare ribs.

The space formerly known as Fatty Johnsons, and before that Cabrito, has stayed in the Fatty family, but you’d hardly recognize it. Once marked by a large pink goat, the Carmine street location is newly outfitted with large wooden doors at the entrance, exposed brick walls, warm wood and hunter green leather booths.  Silver domed light fixtures hang from the ceiling and glass cabinets are filled with half-bottles of upscale liquors; more on those little bottles later.

We started our meal off with Tecate beers, spiked with chili salt and kalamansi juice. Flip the can’s tab open and the salt and kalamansi (a Phillipine citrus) drop in, sending a volcano of foam out the top. There are a number of specialty cocktails, featuring smoked liquors or mixers, like the “Fatty Manhattan” with smoked cherry coke or the “Chupacabra,” a tequila and chili-infused Domaine de Canton concoction.  For a set price, you can even opt for “bottle service,” with your own mini-bar set up right next to your table.  (Genius.)  It may sound pricey, but one bottle of liquor and a mixer or two is a good option if you’re dining with four people or more, and a pretty good deal at that.

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The menu at Fatty Cue is set up in the small plates-style that’s become ubiquitous amongst the city’s newest restaurants. We’re not always fans of this format, but here it let us choose a variety of items, all of which were excellent, but none of which we would have been happy committing to as our sole entrée. As the restaurant’s name suggests, there is straight-up barbecue in the form of ribs (dinosaur-size) and brisket sandwiches, but don’t miss the more creative offerings. Zak Pelaccio is known for his innovative use of Malaysian flavors and ingredients, but apparently he also has a flair for French food. We were surprised, and delighted, by a Chinese soup spoon filled with a celery root (celeriac) puree — as rich as Robuchon’s famous mashed potatoes — topped with caviar and a brunoise of celery.  The last time we visited, the kitchen made it with creamed corn instead of celery root, a trial run for fall, and we’re hoping it makes its way on the menu.

One of the best dishes on the menu is the pappardelle with a rich smoked goat ragu, which interestingly recalled some of the spicy sauces we’ve had over our noodles at Xian Famous Foods.  There’s also an interesting and supremely tasty dish of sardines paired with husk cherries (sometimes called ground cherries).  And while both of these dishes show off the kitchen’s skill with pretty presentations and rich, funky flavors a simple mix-and-match plate titled “Ham, Jam, Butter and Bread” stole the show. Rip off a piece of pretzel bread and smear it with aged butter and seasonal jam (we had concord grape) and top with a slice of excellent prosciutto.

Even the desserts are remarkable. How many bbq joints offer a cheese course? This is a first for us.  There’s also a wildly innovative parfait layered with sesame and tamarind pudding and tapioca pearls, blasted with lapsang souchong smoke for flavor. It’s a bbq joint afterall.

Fatty ‘Cue
Phone: 212-929-5050
50 Carmine St.
New York, NY 10014

RG Writer: Lauren Bloomberg

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